The gamers of the future could combine the best elements of both hardcore and casual games into something new.
A lot of gamers - hardcore gamers, that is - would tell you that core games and casual games are like chalk and cheese, with almost nothing in common. That's a rather simplistic assessment, of course, especially as more and more core game publishers look to casual and social games, both to promote their "hardcore" products, and as sources of revenue in their own right. In Issue 299 of The Escapist, Marshall Honorof suggests that as videogames continue to evolve, the "hardcore" and "casual" labels will be become less and less useful, as the gamers of the future adopt characteristics of both.
Sometimes, I feel badly for my little sister. For years, she's had to endure a constant barrage of gaming jargon from her older brother and her boyfriend, both hardcore gamers. At this point, many people would have either thrown up their hands in defeat or invested themselves fully in gaming. Lindsay, however, opted to take a middle path. While she'll never reach the upper echelons of Halo players or sink forty hours into Dragon Age, her Wii and DS are never far out of reach. Rather than casual games like Bejeweled or Farmville, her staples are The Legend of Zelda and the Just Dance series - which she takes very seriously.
Lindsay represents a new kind of hybrid gamer: one who plays "hardcore" games in a "casual" manner. Instead of viewing games as passive diversions, she sees them as skill-based challenges. At the same time, a game with a deep narrative or a complex gameplay system will elicit only a yawn.
While there will always be a place for narrative-driven experiences with deep gameplay like Mass Effect orGod of War, hardcore gamers would be unwise to look down their noses at the rise of the online shooters, the rhythm games, and the handheld market. Sooner or later, they too will want a game that's easy to pick up and put down, simple to learn, and just challenging enough to hold their interest.
With a few tweaks to the way that games are designed, developers will be able to capitalize on an audience who perhaps don't have the time - or the inclination - to play a traditional hardcore game in the traditional hardcore way. You can read more about it Honorof's article, "A New Breed of Player."